PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 98/2001 - 7 September 2001
--------------------------------

 
"One of the UK's foremost asteroid experts has accused the UK
government of ignoring the threat of a meteorite impact. After
commissioning an expert report on the issue, the government announced
plans this year for a public information centre, but Duncan Steel, from
the University of Salford, says this is equivalent to "sending journalists
to the Olympics, but not sending an athletics team".
--Damian Carrington, New Scientist, 6 September 2001

 
"Space agencies have been told they should be planning how to knock
asteroids and comets off course with nuclear bombs. An expert on comet
impacts says it's time for nations to think seriously about what to do if
a large space object threatens Earth. He told the British Association
science festival in Glasgow the only way to deflect a large asteroid or
comet is to explode a nuclear bomb some distance away from it. Firing a
missile at the object itself would only blast it into fragments and present
a bigger danger. Dr Steel said: "You've got to practice being able to
intercept asteroids and comets in short time- frames. I guess in 10 years
time you might want to practice trying to deflect one."
--Press Association, 6 September 2001 


(1) UK ACCUSED OF IGNORING ASTEROID THREAT
    New Scientist, 6 September 2001

(2) BRITAIN MUST SPEND MILLIONS TO PROTECT AGAINST ASTEROIDS AND COMETS
    The Scotsman, 7 September 2001

(3) THREAT OF ASTEROID IMPACT GREATLY IGNORED, SCIENTIST WARNS
    Sun Sentiel News, 6 September 2001

(4) SHOOTING PRACTICE WOULD MAKE ASTEROID HIT LESS LIKELY
    Press Association, 6 September 2001 

(5) COMING SOON TO A PLANET NEAR YOU
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(6) METEOR IDENTIFIED AS RUSSIAN SPACE JUNK
    Ron Baalke <baalke@jpl.nasa.gov>

(7) MANY QUESTIONS REMAIN ON CHESAPEAKE CRATER:
    SCIENTISTS REVIEW COLLISION THAT LEFT 56-MILE-WIDE DEPRESSION IN BAY
    The Charelotte Observer, 5 September 2001

(8) A POETIC ASTEROID MOON
    Astronomy.com, 4 September 2001

(9) ASTEROID DEFENSE
    Bob Kobres <bkobres@arches.uga.edu>

(10) WHO WERE THE MAGI?
     Mark Kidger <mrk@ll.iac.es>

(11) "CHRISTMAS STAR"
     Joshua <staff@dot-comet.com>

=================
(1) UK ACCUSED OF IGNORING ASTEROID THREAT

>From New Scientist, 6 September 2001
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99991252
 
Damian Carrington, Glasgow
 
One of the UK's foremost asteroid experts has accused the UK government of
ignoring the threat of a meteorite impact.

After commissioning an expert report on the issue, the government announced
plans this year for a public information centre, but Duncan Steel, from the
University of Salford, says this is equivalent to "sending journalists to
the Olympics, but not sending an athletics team".

"It is a real and significant threat, on a par with dying on an airliner,"
he said. "But there has been no announcement of any budget for any research
in this area - a few people in the UK like me are trying to do stuff in our
spare time."

"The US are ploughing ahead and doing a wonderful job given the funding they
have and Japan, Italy, Germany and France all have programmes," Steel says.
"No project could have a better cost-benefit ratio. But it's a vote loser as
no-one takes it seriously. People don't know anyone who was killed by an
asteroid."

On the trail

The latest analysis from the University of Pisa on potential
Earth-approaching objects reveals 14 asteroids that cannot currently be
ruled out. Objects are added to the list and deleted regularly, as continued
observation refines knowledge of the trajectory.

For example, object 2001QQ142, is about 1.25 kilometre in diameter and has
dozens of potential impact dates between 2006 and 2079. However, the largest
current probability of impact is just one in 10 million in 2006 and this is
based on only five days of observations [the virtual impact risk for 2006
was eliminated more than a week ago. It is expected, and almost certain,
that the other hypothetical impact dates will be removed with further
observations., BJP]

Objects over one kilometre would cause a "global catastrophe", with between
a quarter and a half of the world's population wiped out.

The problem, said Steel, is that only half of the objects over one kilometre
are spotted and less that one percent of those a few hundred metres in size.
Even a 50-metre object can cause enormous regional damage, like the 1908
Tunguska impact in Siberia. "If we want to find these, we need to up the
game," says Steel.

Small and faint

The current search program in US only use telescopes with apertures of one
metre. These are US air force installations in New Mexico and Hawaii. "In
order to find the smaller, fainter ones in the sky we need bigger
telescopes," he says.

Another problem is that no-one is searching for objects in the southern
hemisphere. Steel did have a programme from 1990 to 1996 at the
Anglo-Australian observatory that allowed objects picked up by the US to be
tracked for longer.

Finally, if we are to do something about a future asteroid threat, we need
to know our enemy much better, says Steel: "If you don't know what they are
made of, we don't know if we need an elephant gun or a butterfly net."

Detonating a nuclear bomb in front of an asteroid should vaporise the front
of the asteroid enough to change its flight path without fragmenting it, but
Steel says, "maybe we should start practising now".
 
Copyright 2001, New Scientist

==============
(2) BRITAIN MUST SPEND MILLIONS TO PROTECT AGAINST ASTEROIDS AND COMETS

>From The Scotsman, 7 September 2001
http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/uk.cfm?id=105693&keyword=the

Alastair Dalton Science Correspondent

A scientist yesterday accused the government of failing to defend Britain
against asteroids and comets.

Duncan Steel said the country was completely unprepared to protect itself
from cosmic collisions and the UK should be spending up to 10 million a
year on tracking objects that might hit the Earth.

He also called for practice tests to knock them off course with nuclear
weapons.

Dr Steel, a reader in space technology at Salford University, said: "The
cosmic impact hazard is real and substantial. It is a matter of growing
concern, but Britain is doing absolutely nothing about it."

He said there were 14 asteroids on a potential collision course with the
Earth, and although some of them were harmless, a global catastrophe killing
up to half the population could not be ruled out.

One of them, code-named 2001QQ142, which was three-quarters of a mile
across, had a one in ten million chance of hitting the Earth in 2006 [new
observations have ruled out any impact risk for 2006, BJP].

Speaking at the British Association's Festival of Science in Glasgow, Dr
Steel said government plans to assess its telescopes' capabilities and
launch a public information centre was not enough. He said Britain must join
other countries such as the United States, Japan and Italy in taking action.
The UK had the world's biggest infra-red telescope in Hawaii, but it was not
being used.

Dr Steel said tracking must also start in the southern hemisphere to help
identify potentially dangerous objects so preventative measures could be
taken.

He also called for tests of nuclear explosions close to asteroids to
practice pushing them off course. Given enough time, their speed would only
need to be changed by a few centimetres a second to avoid a collision.

However, firing a missile at the asteroid would only blast it into fragments
and present a bigger danger.

Lord Sainsbury, the science minister, who was visiting the festival
yesterday, said Dr Steel was "completely wrong".

He said: "Far from not doing enough, we are taking a leadership role and are
one of the few countries taking the issue seriously.

"The chance of an impact is extremely remote and it is not something people
should lie awake at night thinking about. But we know the Earth has been hit
before so it is a threat."

Copyright 2001, The Scotsman

==============
(3) THREAT OF ASTEROID IMPACT GREATLY IGNORED, SCIENTIST WARNS

>From Sun Sentiel News, 6 September 2001
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sfl-96asteroid.story?coll=sfla%2Dhome%2Dheadlines

By Patricia Reaney
Reuters

GLASGOW, Scotland -- Britain and other nations are not doing enough to track
asteroids or other near-Earth objects which could cause a catastrophe if one
collided with the Earth, a British physicist said Thursday.

A massive asteroid that hit Mexico is blamed for the demise of the dinosaurs
65 million years ago. Duncan Steel, of the University of Salford in
northwest England, said humans could be facing a similar calamity.

"We need to know more about our enemy," Steel told a science conference.

Scientists are tracking large near-Earth objects which would cause the most
damage and kill millions. The likelihood of a large asteroid hitting the
Earth is one in 100,000.

The United States, Italy, France, Germany and Japan have programs looking
into the threat of collisions with near-Earth objects and how to deal with
them.

Experts at Italy's University of Pisa also produce a regularly updated list
of large space objects and the probabilities of collisions.

But Steel argues that Britain and other nations are ignoring the threat and
also not funding research into the quest for smaller space objects which
would cause less damage but have a higher risk of colliding with the Earth.

"Such cosmic calamities pose a surprising yet significant danger to us all,"
he told the Britain Association science conference. "There is no coordinated
program in the southern hemisphere or worldwide," Steel added.

Hollywood films such as "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact" have raised public
awareness of the threat, but Steel believes some governments are not putting
money into the search for smaller near-Earth objects because it does not win
votes.

No one has been killed by an asteroid or comet, he added, so people do not
take the threat seriously. "I would challenge anyone who could find a
project with a better cost/benefit ratio," he added.

As an example of what could happen, Steel cited the case of Tunguska in
Siberia. Huge areas of forests were flattened when an asteroid exploded 6.2
miles over the region with the force of a 10-megaton hydrogen bomb impact in
1908.  

Copyright 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

=============
(4) SHOOTING PRACTICE WOULD MAKE ASTEROID HIT LESS LIKELY

>From Press Association, 6 September 2001 
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_391659.html
 
Space agencies have been told they should be planning how to knock asteroids
and comets off course with nuclear bombs.

An expert on comet impacts says it's time for nations to think seriously
about what to do if a large space object threatens Earth.

Dr Duncan Steel believes Britain should be spending between 5 million and
10 million a year on helping the international effort to spot killer
asteroids and comets.

About 1,000 "near-Earth objects" are known about, but many more are thought
to exist.

Dr Steel, a reader in space technology at Salford University, said even a
"small" asteroid less than 50 metres across would flatten London as far out
as the M25.

He told the British Association science festival in Glasgow the only way to
deflect a large asteroid or comet is to explode a nuclear bomb some distance
away from it. Firing a missile at the object itself would only blast it into
fragments and present a bigger danger.

Dr Steel said: "You've got to practice being able to intercept asteroids and
comets in short time-frames. I guess in 10 years time you might want to
practice trying to deflect one."

With 23 years' warning, changing an asteroid's speed by just one centimetre
per second would ensure that it missed the Earth, he told New Scientist.

Copyright 2001, Ananova

================
(5) COMING SOON TO A PLANET NEAR YOU

>From Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

[ http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,3605,547298,00.html ]

Thursday, September 6, 2001

Coming soon to a planet near you

Astronomers cannot be sure there is no asteroid impact due soon, says Duncan
Steel.

By Duncan Steel

Being the science minister can't be much fun. No one expects economic
forecasts to be accurate. But in science exactitude is demanded. And
scientists, being a pedantic bunch, are apt to seize on any laxity in
official statements.

Take the asteroid and comet impact hazard, and Lord Sainsbury's recent
announcement of plans for a near-Earth object (NEO) public information
centre. "There are currently no known large NEOs whose orbits puts them on
collision course with Earth," he said. Unfortunately, that is not quite
right.

We now know of more than a thousand asteroids, of various dimensions, having
orbits around the sun that cross the path of the Earth. About one-third will
end their lives by running into our planet. That is the bad news. The good
news is that the typical interval before each does is more than a million
years (although some will hammer into us much sooner).

At the time of writing, there are 14 known NEOs that may strike before the
year 2100. Within a period of 48 hours, at least one will be removed from
the list, because tracking after its discovery will enable a sufficiently
precise definition of its orbit to prove it is not dangerous. Indeed, one
large NEO discovered in mid-August caused alarm when the initial data made
feasible an impact in either 2005 or 2007, but with a few more days'
tracking that possibility disappeared. So, it was quickly deleted.

The remaining 13 members of the list are of longer standing. Not all are
really hazardous. Take 1991 BA, discovered more than a decade ago. It may
hit in January 2003, or in 2010. The likelihood of a collision is small,
around one in a million based on our knowledge of its trajectory. This
projectile only measures about 10 metres across, so would almost certainly
blow up on crashing into the atmosphere, with spectacular fireworks and
shaken china on the ground, but nothing more serious.

There are several similar small NEOs in the data banks. One has a greater
than one-in-10,000 chance of hitting us in 2039. Another that caused a
furore late last year, 2000 SG344, is now thought not to be an asteroid, but
an empty upper-stage rocket body that the Apollo moon landings left in
space. There is a slim chance of it returning home in 2071, but it is no
more a threat than the Mir space station that fell into the Pacific earlier
this year.

Going up in size we come to 2001 BA16, spotted last January. It is 30 to 40
metres in size, and has a better than one-in-10,000 chance of an impact in
2041. We know nothing about its composition. Most asteroids are rocky
bodies; if this one is too, then it would disintegrate in the upper
atmosphere in an explosion releasing energy equivalent to a few megatonnes
of TNT, more than 100 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. But this would occur at a
sufficient altitude for there to be little damage on the surface, unless it
was over a city.

But many meteorites are made of nickel-iron mixtures and are very strong, so
they are able to punch through the atmosphere at hypervelocity. A small
metallic asteroid like this excavated the famous Meteor Crater in Arizona,
three quarters of a mile wide.

A more recent discovery (2001 GP2, in April) is slightly smaller. Fourteen
separate dates have been identified over the next century when it may slam
into our planet, but all are long odds and most likely it will miss us each
time. We worry far more about the myriad unseen others, meaning we can
expect no warning at all.

Consider the larger NEOs capable of widespread damage, perhaps on a global
scale. The granddaddy of them all is Hermes, a half-mile-wide rock seen to
whiz past the Earth barely more distant than the moon in 1937. Hermes was
observed for only a handful of days. It could come back and hit us at any
time.

Much more recently, several potential Earth-impactors have been discovered
and then lost due to insufficient tracking data. We can count two in 1994
(sizes around 60 and 300 metres), one in 1995 (30-40 metres across), one in
1997 (about 50 metres), and another in 1998 (250 metres in size). Only the
last -- 1998 OX4 -- gained media attention. It has three opportunities to
strike Earth, but not until after 2038, and each has a fairly small
probability. Similarly 2001 AV43, a 60-metre NEO spotted last January, has a
slim chance of hitting us in 2066.

Another discovery late in 1994 is peculiar. It was tracked for 35 days, and
took only two-thirds of a year to circuit the sun, spending most of its life
closer to our star than the Earth but coming far enough outwards every orbit
to have a chance of colliding with us. Luckily it cannot do so before 2059.

But over the next four decades, 34 separate close approaches rendering
opportunities for impact have been identified, with individual probabilities
of up to one-in-10,000. One such asteroid, 1994 WR12, is around 200 metres
in size, and so could cause damage on a continental scale should it hit.
Calculations rendering the impact probabilities mentioned are highly
complicated, and Britain does not have any group with the expertise to
perform them.

The Czech Republic delivers much more vital NEO tracking than does the UK.
The leader in Europe is Italy: not only does that nation host the
headquarters of the international Spaceguard Foundation, supported by the
European Space Agency, but there are several university and observatory
groups dedicated to research on the NEO hazard. The probability calculations
discussed above were made by a group at the University of Pisa, headed by Dr
Andrea Milani (see http://newton.dm.unipi.it/cgi-bin/neodys/neoibo ).

Such calculations are verified at the Helsinki Observatory in Finland, and
at institutions in the United States, including NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in California. Japan is also involved.

Britain has some catching up to do. And preferably well before some NEO is
discovered whose impact probability is unity, rather than some small
fraction as at present. One day it will happen.

[Dr Duncan Steel is at the University of Salford. His most recent book is
Target Earth. Today he will address the British Association science festival
in Glasgow on the comet and asteroid impact hazard.]

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001

=================
(6) METEOR IDENTIFIED AS RUSSIAN SPACE JUNK

>From Ron Baalke <baalke@jpl.nasa.gov>

http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/space/09/06/space.junk.ap/index.html

Meteor identified as Russian space junk
September 6, 2001

TRENTON, New Jersey (AP) -- A fiery object streaked across the sky over much
of the East Coast early Thursday, and Navy officials said it was a Russian
rocket that re-entered the atmosphere after orbiting Earth since 1975.

The SL3 rocket body re-entered the atmosphere shortly before 6 a.m. about
100 miles off Delaware, said Navy Cmdr. Rod Gibbons, a spokesman for the
U.S. Space Command at Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Full story here:
http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/space/09/06/space.junk.ap/index.html

===============
(7) MANY QUESTIONS REMAIN ON CHESAPEAKE CRATER:
    SCIENTISTS REVIEW COLLISION THAT LEFT 56-MILE-WIDE DEPRESSION IN BAY

>From The Charelotte Observer, 5 September 2001
http://www.charlotte.com/observer/natwor/docs/crater0905.htm

By ROBERT S. BOYD
Knight Ridder

BAVON, Va. -- It is so peaceful here - a flat green marsh bordering bay
waters, reeds, scrubby pines, gulls circling a distant lighthouse.

Only the clatter of a drilling rig breaks the spell, as scientists poke deep
below the ground. They are searching for traces of one of the greatest
catastrophes ever to hit the Earth.

Near this spot 35 million years ago, an enormous ball of ice or rock
screeched down from outer space in a blinding flash of light and blasted a
crater 56 miles across and almost a mile deep.

The meteor, the largest ever to strike what is now the United States, hurled
fragments as far as Antarctica and gouged a depression that lies under the
Chesapeake Bay, one of the East Coast's scenic wonders.

Today, a rough circle of low ridges in Virginia's coastal plain, near
historic Williamsburg and Jamestown, marks the outer rim of the ancient
crater, which is buried under thousands of feet of sand, silt and clay.

Other signs of the collision remain: Two million nearby residents face a
shortage of fresh water, because the searing heat of the long-ago impact
vaporized huge quantities of seawater, leaving the basin still filled with
salt that threatens their freshwater aquifers. Nearby rivers make a peculiar
sharp bend as they are diverted toward the sunken crater.

This summer, researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey are drilling holes
in and around the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater, as it is known. They are
trying to understand what happened when the meteor hit and what it means for
people now and in the future.

Wylie Poag, a senior USGS scientist, pointed out that our planet is
constantly pummeled by extraterrestrial objects, around 25,000 of them each
year. Most are small and harmless. A little one bonked a boy on the head in
Uganda in 1992, injuring him slightly; another dented in a car fender in
Peekskill, N.Y., the same year.

But it's only a matter of time, experts say, before another "big one"
strikes, like the monster that rammed the Earth off the coast of Mexico 65
million years ago. Scientists think the long-lasting global climate change
that followed that collision wiped out the dinosaurs and thousands of other
species.

Speaking above the roar of the drill, Poag, who found and identified the
Chesapeake crater in 1994, shows off a box of cylindrical cores pulled up
from 2,000 feet below the ground. The muddy cylinders, each about the size
and shape of a child's baseball bat, show rock that was twisted, jumbled and
squeezed by the battering it endured long ago.

Scientists aren't certain whether the meteor was a comet, made mostly of
ice, or an asteroid, a lump of stone or iron. At 2 to 3 miles in diameter,
it was only a third the size of the Mexican dinosaur-killer. But when it
crashed into the ocean here at 60,000 mph, it did awesome damage.

The splash-down caused a massive tidal wave that surged far inland into the
Appalachian foothills. Such a wave, known as a super-tsunami, can tower more
than a thousand feet, Poag said, as it roars into shallow water near the
shore.

In addition, a hail of white-hot debris flung outward by the impact turned
the Eastern United States into a wasteland. A cloud of dust encircled the
globe, darkening the sky for months. The world's climate rapidly warmed and
then cooled, perhaps contributing to a mass extinction of sea creatures a
million years later.

"Life on Earth would have been shocked, vaporized, pulverized, barbecued,
blinded, irradiated, acidified, drowned, starved and frozen," Poag wrote in
his book, "Chesapeake Invader." "A similar strike in Chesapeake Bay today
would wipe out all the major East Coast cities, killing tens of millions.
The scale of annihilation is appalling to contemplate."

Copyright 2001, The Charelotte Observer

================
(8) A POETIC ASTEROID MOON

>From Astronomy.com, 4 September 2001
http://www.astronomy.com/Content/Dynamic/Articles/000/000/000/596sqijj.asp

by Vanessa Thomas

It seems there is a poetry lover among the rocky members of our solar
system. Last week, two teams of astronomers independently discovered a small
body orbiting orbiting (22) Kalliope, a main-belt asteroid named after the
Greek muse of epic poetry.

Jean-Luc Margot and Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology
first spotted the asteroid moon on August 29 while observing Kalliope with
the 10-meter Keck II telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. A second team led
by William Merline of the Southwest Research Institute noticed Kalliope's
satellite just a few days later while using the 3.6-meter
Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), also at Mauna Kea. Both teams
reported the discovery to the International Astronomical Union's Central
Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) on Monday, September 3.

When Merline and his team saw what appeared to be a companion to Kalliope on
September 2, they kept watch for over an hour to make sure that the
unidentified body was not a background star. Because asteroids appear to
move across the sky at different speeds than background stars, stars appear
as streaks on images taken with telescopes that are tracking asteroids.
"Both the asteroid and the satellite were not streaked in the images, while
the stars were," Merline reports. So the object obviously was not a
background star, but moving at the same speed as Kalliope.

The astronomers also had to make sure that the object was not another
asteroid that happened to be in the same field of view. "It is theoretically
possible that another asteroid in the background may be very close and thus
moving at almost the same speed, appearing like it was with the asteroid,"
Merline explains. However, "we found that no known objects were in this
direction in the sky," he said.

>From the satellite's brightness, Margot and Brown estimate that it is about
one-fifth the size of the 181-kilometer-wide (112-mile-wide) Kalliope,
although Merline's team disagrees with the calculation. Margot and Brown
also predict that the moon orbits about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away
from its larger companion.

Both teams have previously discovered satellites of main-belt asteroids
before. Merline says his team was aware of Margot and Brown's observing run
at the Keck Observatory, but Margot claims that he and Brown did not know
about the others' plans to observe Kalliope at Mauna Kea that week.
 
According to Dan Green, who received the reports for the CBAT, both teams
should be credited for the discovery of Kalliope's moon. Temporarily
designated S/2001 (22) 1, the new moonlet joins a growing group of asteroid
satellites discovered since the Galileo spacecraft discovered the first -
asteroid (243) Ida's moon, Dactyl - in 1993.

In fact, Merline adds that other discoveries may be on the way. "Many other
potentially interesting objects in our data sit waiting for additional
chances to look at the objects; they are not sufficiently convincing in and
of themselves to announce without more data." This was not the case with
Kalliope's moon, however. "The moon ... was so obvious that we were certain
of it within only the first set of data," Merline writes. Margot agrees,
saying, "There was absolutely no question in our mind that this was a
satellite."

Copyright 2001, Astronomy.com

============================
* LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR *
============================

(9) ASTEROID DEFENSE

>From Bob Kobres <bkobres@arches.uga.edu>

". . ., as a moderately intelligent species . . ."  Jay Tate telling it like
it is on US National Public Radio's "Science Friday" (08/31/01), about 31
and a half minutes into the show.

http://www.sciencefriday.com/pages/2001/Aug/hour2_083101.html
http://www.npr.org/ramfiles/totn/20010831.totn.02.ram

Science Friday > Archives > 2001 > August > August 31, 2001:

Hour Two: Asteroid Defense

Sixty five million years ago, scientists say, an asteroid the size of a
small city obliterated the dinosaurs. Are more killer asteroids on their
way? Scientists around the world are scanning the heavens for dangerous
Earth-bound objects, but the question remains -- if they find them, can they
be stopped? On this hour of Science Friday we'll talk about close encounters
with asteroids, and plans for an asteroid defense system.

Guests:
Jonathan Tate
Director, Spaceguard Centre
Knighton, Wales, United Kingdom

Erik Asphaug
Professor of Earth Sciences
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California

Donald Yeomans Manager
Near Earth Object Program
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, California

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This show provides an interesting sampling of US public opinion on PHO
mitigation.

Later.
bobk

=================
(10) WHO WERE THE MAGI?

>From Mark Kidger <mrk@ll.iac.es>

Dear Benny:

Very interesting the comments of Hermann Burchard on the Magi. Of course the
Persians did sack Babylon and would have taken Jews as booty in the same way
that the Babylonians themselves had taken many thousands of Jews to Babylon
after they sacked Jerusalem. This would have taken the Jewish messianic
prophesies and gives a plausible link to the birth of a "king of the Jews".

The issue of how settled it is that the Magi were Persian or not is less
clear to me. Most writers do assume that they were Babylonian, although
various other suggestions have been made, including the one that they came
from Arabia (essentially the Gulf coast of what is now Saudi Arabia). If
this were the case our long desert traverse is somewhat disappointingly
replaced with a short voyage around the coast and then a ride up the heavily
transited King's Highway from the northernmost tip of the Red Sea to Jerusalem.

My research found that little is known of Persian mathematics, science, or
astrology and thus it is very hard indeed to examine motives in the sense of
knowing what type of phenomenon might be significant to them. My own feeling
is now very much that the Magi were Persian and very probably Zoroastrian
priests (the sect was known as Magi), but the proof of this is singularly
lacking. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence and certainly this is
much more convincing than the evidence in favour of the Babylonians. My
comments on this point were more to lament that most writers do ignore who
the Magi were and this is a major failing. Some theories, such as the
spectacular 2BC Venus-Jupiter conjunction are tightly tied to this point as
the conjunction would have been very spectacular from Babylon, but much less
so from Persia, where the planets would set well before closest approach.
Similarly, the 6BC lunar occultation of Jupiter would have been above the
horizon after sunset in Babylon, but below the horizon from Persia.

Another very important factor in the Babylon/Persia debate is the nature of
the journey. From Babylon the journey to Jerusalem is relatively easy. From
Persia it is considerably longer and takes in a major mountain range as well
as two major deserts and wide rivers. From Persia the time required would be
considerably longer, making short-lived phenomena such as a bolide or a
Cyrillid meteor swarm very implausible.

Mark Kidger

==============
(11) "CHRISTMAS STAR"

>From Joshua <staff@dot-comet.com>

Dear Benny,

Anyone who is truly interested in the legacy of the supposed "Christmas
Star" would be well-advised to investigate the revolutionary research being
conducted by the Jesus Seminar. This group of scholars has been attempting
to discover the historical Jesus for over 10 years.

When one reads the gospels of Matthew and Mark, it becomes clear that each
of them had a copy of the Gospel of Luke, and copied it, each adding his own
"special" twists. One of those twists is the Christmas Star.

Evidence suggests that the famous four gospels weren't actually written by
their supposed apostle-authors, but were scribed several decades later.

Actually, there were probably hundreds of gospels at one time, and 52 of
them can be found in The Nag Hamaddi Library, a collection of ancient
writings about Jesus which was discovered in Egypt about 50 years ago. Some
of the texts pre-date the Book of Matthew, and while I haven't read
the entire collection, I don't recall anything about the Christmas Star.

So, I believe that the Christmas Star is an embelishment.

Regards,
-joshua
staff@dot-comet.com

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